Friday, 25 July 2014

Valuable lessons from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru Climb of 2011 (post 3 of 3)

6 December 2011
It is a lazy day spent on drying our wet clothes. We also followed suggestions from our guides and did an acclimatization hike, heading uphill for a few hundred metres.

The fast pace maintained yesterday by some of the climbers came with a price. I learnt this morning that one of the climbers was suffering from fatigue and the effects of high altitude. I also heard that one of the only two female climbers in our group was unwell throughout the day. I attribute both their predicaments to maintaining a fast pace, although the blame should fall on a young energetic guide who had more energy than experience and who felt short term gains (rushing to the next camp) was more important than the longer term goal of reaching the summit. I set and maintained my normal slow pace.
Panoramic view of part of Shira 2 camp
[Lesson 4: You don't improve your chances of reaching the summit by rushing up towards the summit. Most climbers increase their chances of reaching the summit by maintaining a slow and measured pace throughout the ascent. Guides that rush climbers towards the summit are rare, but they exist. If you are unfortunate to be led by one, demand that he/she slows down to a pace that you find comfortable.]

7 - 10 December 2011
I did not maintain a diary of the daily events after 6 December - which could be instructive of the challenge I experienced as we continued the ascent. Matters were made worse because I came to this climb without adequate training and while on past climbs I managed to reach the summit with inadequate training those climbs lacked the challenges that the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru climb threw at us.
Kibo peak from Shira 2 camp, the morning of 7th December.
We continued our trek to Barranco camp on 7th December and, although I suggested a slower pace to those in a hurry to get to the next camp, my advice bounced off a rejuvenated group that had recouped lost energy from the two nights we spent at Shira 2 camp.

On 8th December we trekked from Barranco to Barafu, Mt. Kilimanjaro's base camp, having stopped at Karanga camp for lunch. We had a relatively short period of rest at Barafu before we began our midnight trek towards the summit.

All high altitude climbing is unforgiving to those who do not take precautions. In this regard, Kilimanjaro maintained that reputation. Some of those who had spent the past few days rushing from one camp to the next had exhausted their energies on reaching Barafu and chose to remain sleeping in their tents while the rest of us confronted the freezing temperatures above 4,800 metres.

I recall summoning all my physical and mental resources as I trekked through the night towards Stella Point. located at the edge of the crater rim. After resting for a while at Stella Point I had decided to turn back, but Benjamin and Maurice, the filmmakers who were filming the documentary The Teachers' Country in which I was featured, urged me to continue towards the summit. It was important I reach the summit because the script was based on my arriving at the summit.

I went only half way from Stella Point and then felt I did not have the energy to reach the summit and also trek down to Mweka Camp. I was the only one in the group who knew that reaching the summit was less than half the distance we would cover before we slipped into our sleeping bags that evening.

I had another disincentive (call it an excuse): before this climb I already had reached the summit four times. If I could pick an excuse, I would say that it was the first year I was attempting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro twice and within less than three months of the previous climb.

[Lesson 5: Unless you maintain an uninterrupted training program or are on the Seven Summits Challenge, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro twice in a year should probably be attempted after at least six months of a previous climb]
On the final day, at Mweka camp, it is all smiles for those who reached the summit and those who did not. I, on the left, thought that Deo, on the right, and her colleague would not reach the summit. They did.
But I am also aware that this last lesson cannot be valid for everyone. One lasting lesson that I have learnt from my multiple Kilimanjaro climbs is that you cannot make accurate predictions on who within a group will reach the summit.

Related post:

No comments:

Post a Comment